Cellphones, Privacy, Technology

Verizon’s Data-Mining Policies Are On A Whole Other Plane of Creepy

Maybe I’m a Luddite for feeling uninterested in letting Instagram know where I took my last photo. Maybe I’m crazy for not geotagging my Facebook updates.

But here’s the thing: your electronic privacy is like handling a bad romantic relationship. If you give yourself away too easily, you might not be surprised if your partner — or in this case, your cell phone carrier — sells your personal information to make money and help other companies sell you more crap.

Case in point: Verizon, which is catching fire from privacy rights advocates for the way it handles (read: sells) its customers’ cellphone data. Amuurica, f**k yeah….

CNET tells us of Verizon’s relatively new policy of selling very specific cell phone information:

Verizon Wireless has begun selling information about its customers’ geographical locations, app usage, and Web browsing activities, a move that raises privacy questions and could brush up against federal wiretapping law.

The company this month began offering reports to marketers showing what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones and other mobile devices, including what iOS and Android apps are in use in which locations. Verizon says it may link the data to third-party databases with information about customers’ gender, age, and even details such as “sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner.”

“We’re able to view just everything that they do,” Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year. “And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.”

Okay, that’s cool and all, but oil comes from the ground and dead dinosaurs. To get oil, you just scratch the earth up a bit (or a lot, but who’s counting). This data Diggins speaks of, well, it kind of belongs to individuals.

(To be clear, it sounds like Verizon knows a helluva lot without you geotagging your Tweets, or whatever. This is another level of almost-literal data mining.)

And that’s why privacy advocates are pissed off and complaining that Verizon may violate federal wiretapping laws.

It probably doesn’t make Verizon more sympathetic when the company also released some impressive financial results last night.

The creepy technology, which, for example, allows Verizon to know “if you’re viewing ESPN… if you’re viewing MLB… what social networking sites you’re activating, if you’re sending out mobile usage content that’s user-generated on video,” is walking a fine line, according to Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Whether you collect data from one person or aggregate from bunch of people doesn’t seem substantively different, Fakhoury explains in the article.

Kind of makes you think twice before downloading that bike map app I mean history of cycling e-book, err, nevermind. But you guys get the point.

Verizon draws fire for monitoring app usage, browsing habits [CNET]

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